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Sephardic Jews in Australia – Process for Acquiring a Portuguese Passport

Joshua Pex
Joshua Pex

Morgan Jones

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Jews who are originally from Spain in Australia have contributed much to the development of the local social, commercial, and economic life. When the first Sephardic (Sefardi) Jewish settlers arrived in Australia in the 19th century, they established businesses, banks, cultural centers, and artwork that still exist today. In addition, the community leaders were known as philanthropists and recognized by the authorities as personalities that influenced and aided the advancement of the large country.

This article discusses the rights of Australian Jews to receive a Portuguese passport. It is important to note that in Australia it is not just the Sephardic communities that are eligible for a Portuguese passport. This is because there are thousands of Ashkenazi Jews who are descendants of Sephardic Jews who settled the country even before the beginning of the 19th century. Our Israeli law firm assists family members of Spanish expellee origin in the process of receiving a Portuguese passport.

Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewish Immigration to Australia

Sephardic Jews in Australia

Spanish Jewry in Australia arose at the beginning of the 19th century when British merchants of Spanish origin arrived in Australia in order to open trade businesses. The merchants came with their families and settled in the cities of Melbourne, Adelaide, Victoria, and Sydney, and they were considered affluent. Among the most prominent family names were Mendes Da Costa, Mendoza, Belisario, Montefiore, Mocata, and more. The Sephardic settlement was regarded by the local British as important and necessary for the economic development of the region.

It is important to know that Australia only received its independence from Britain in 1901, so until then the country served as a colony for British prisoners. Consequently, masses of Jewish prisoners arrived in Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Within the groups of prisoners there were dozens of Sephardic Jews. It is said that after they were released from prison, some of the Sephardic Jews returned to their Judaism, since they found a home in the local Sephardic Jewish community.

Sephardic Jews in Australia

The Sephardic Jewish community was a constructive, enterprising, and philanthropic community. With their integration in Australia, they established intercontinental shipping companies, schools, and public hospitals in the city of Adelaide. Amongst them were members of Parliament in various parts of the country, such as Victoria, Southern Australia, and New South Wales. Joseph Montefiore was the first official president of the Australian Jewish community that was founded in Sydney 1832. It should be noted that the traditions of the Sephardic congregation at this time were Ashkenazi customs.

In addition, Joseph Montefiore, together with local investors, established several regional bank branches. His brother Jacob Montefiore was one of the founders of the Australian Southern District in 1836. Another Montefiore brother, Eliezer Levi, was considered the founder of the Jewish Community of Adelaide. He also donated his money for the construction of local libraries and art galleries. In the last few years of his life, Eliezer Levi Montefiore served as the head director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

By the 19th century, Jews from Iraq and Turkey joined the Sephardic community in Australia. However, from 1901 – the year of Australia’s independence – until the 1940s, only white Europeans were given permission to enter the country. This greatly limited Jewish immigration from the Middle East. We know that only 15 Turkish Jews succeeded in entering Australia during this time period amongst all those who attempted.

Jewish Immigration to Australia in the 20th Century

After World War II, Sephardic Jews from Egypt, Iraq, India (they were descendants of Iraqi Jews), Turkey, and North African countries came to Australia. There was a division in the Sephardic community. The Egyptians who grew up and were educated in Egypt were considered as a more Western or European population, because they spoke French, Italian, and English fluently. The Iraqi population was considered the most pious because they maintained an orthodox lifestyle. The Indian community was divided into two groups. Those from Calcutta (today Kolkata) and those from Bombay (today Mumbai). The Jews of Calcutta adopted Syrian customs, and the Jews of Bombay followed the Iraqi customs.

While the State of Israel was being established in the middle of the 20th century, there were riots and murders in neighboring Arab countries such as Egypt, Iraq, and others. As a result of these riots, the Jews left their homes and some of them chose to immigrate to Australia. In the 1970s, the Sephardic community numbered approximately 6,000 members. Today it is estimated that the Sephardic community in Australia has 10,000 members from among the Jewish community’s 120,000 people.

Additional Articles about the Jews Expelled from Spain and Portugal in Different Countries

  1. European Passport for Yemenite Jews
  2. Spanish Anusim in Mexico can receive Portuguese passport 
  3. Spanish Expellees in Colombia
  4. The Sephardic Connection of the Jews of Jamaica
  5. Portuguese Passport for Iraqi Jews
  6. Portuguese Citizenship with a Criminal Record
  7. Does a European Passport Holder Need a Visa to the US?

Thank you Mr. Jonathan Gavrielov for helping with this article.

Contact an expert Lawyer about Immigration to Portugal

Our office can help you know your family connections. We are in contact with genealogists who can help you search your family tree and confirm your Sephardic family connection. Please know that the conditions for receiving a Portuguese passport do not require a direct connection to the Spanish expellees, rather that the applicant maintain a cultural and familial connection to the Sephardic tradition. We would be happy to check your legal eligibility for a Portuguese passport. Contact a lawyer from one of these numbers:

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